What do you think about money?
Are you one of those people who think it’s vulgar to talk about money? Do financial conversations make you uncomfortable? Do you think societies would be better served in doing away with money so that everyone can share the combined wealth – that’s the idea behind communism, by the way. Do you think people have to sell their souls to make money? (Don’t laugh at this one because there are people who believe that and who are, thus, convinced that wealthy people must be evil) I’ve had several of the above thoughts at different points of my life. Thankfully, I’ve grown. But for a long time, I was content working just for the pleasure of it and not concerned with making money from what I do. If I could just do what I enjoy and do it for myself, everything was okay, I thought. But reading this book, Business Secrets From The Bible, has given me new perspective on money.
There is a section of the book that talks about the spiritual aspect of money – the effects that making money has on society as a whole. Making a fortune is great – it means you can provide for yourself and that you have the capacity to provide for others. But making money is more than that. The process of making money means that you have added value to the society because being paid is the reward for having provided a service that other people need. The more money you make, the more contributions you have made to society.
The first institution that God created for man was work – this responsibility was more than just the act of gardening. Rather, it required Adam to care of what he already had so it could produce more. If you tend an animal, it eats, grows and has babies. If you tend a seed, it germinates, grows into a mature plant and bears fruit – which give more seed. You can sell a seed for a penny but you can sell a fruit for a dollar. You can use the seed to feed one person (probably yourself) but you can feed an entire community with the fruit of one tree – when you have tended the seed into a fruit, now you have the ability to help others. Making money (from selling the fruit) is the reward for having increased the food supply for the community.
This doesn’t mean we all have to be farmers. God wants us to use our individual gifts and talents to provide for ourselves and each other. Money and our growing personal wealth is the reward for doing the right thing. If we are selfish and eat the seed ourselves, we have nothing to offer the community and thus, make no money.
Money is the reward for doing the right thing. Money is a spiritual reward. Of course there is a great stewardship responsibly that has to do with how you spend the money once you’ve made it but that’s another conversation for another time – before you spend the money, you have to make it – but this discussion is on what you contribute to society by making it in the first place. You can help build the society even before you start writing checks to charities. You can add value to the society just by going to work.
Is money a spiritual concept then? Yes, absolutely. Some of the richest people give millions to charities. But before they did that, they contributed to the society by doing what they were good at. Bill Gates gave us Windows technology that changed the way we work. He added something of value for millions of people and when they paid him for it, then he gave back to society through the Bill and Melinda Gates Charity Foundation. But he had made our lives better long before he established a charity. The money he made from when we bought the computers technology was just how we showed that we appreciated his contribution.
If instead of selling Windows computers to the public, Bill Gates had just made one cool computer that he put on his own desk and looked at it everyday but never shared it with anyone else, he wouldn’t have made any money and we’d also still be using typewriters and word processors in our offices. Making money, then, means you’ve contributed something other people consider valuable.
Take the subway in NYC any evening and you’ll probably encounter a group of kids dancing in the cars – some straphangers find them interesting and entertaining and they reward them with dollar bills. They are making money by adding value to the society. Because I personally hate the loud music and the acrobatics on the train, I show my disapproval by not giving money. By withholding my dollar, I am saying I don’t find value in your performance – it hasn’t done any good for me.
Take Oprah as another example. She added value to the world by hosting her network show. She hosted guests who shared their talents and gave us lots to think about. Watching her show made us better readers and thinkers and doers. The Oprah show entertained and informed and taught us how to “live our best lives” and we rewarded her by buying the things she promoted. Over time, she became one of the richest women in the world and then she could focus on giving that money away. But her value isn’t just reflected in the money that she’s been able to give away since her network gig ended. It’s what she does while hosting her show. That’s why we watch and buy the things she promotes.
Most of us haven’t gotten any of the incredible amounts of money (or cars) that she’s given away. But ask anyone what Oprah did for them and they’ll probably tell you she inspired or educated or entertained them. She added value to their lives. Oprah made her billions by adding value to the society. Nothing wrong with that.
The focus, then, is not just on growing your personal wealth but the value you add to society by making money.
How are you adding value to the society? And do you think you are being adequately rewarded for your contribution? What do you need to change to makes those two aspects more aligned with each other?